In my role as Development & Communications Manager at 826DC, I ran a magic-themed gift shop. More on that here. This is the story behind one of the products I single-handedly brought to life during my tenure.
Spice up inventory during a busy season for magic: Halloween.
Costumes are expensive to stock, and spooky decor is only relevant for a limited time.
Translate a classic occult sleepover activity for the modern hipster witch.
Handmade Ouija Boards
AKA paranormal cheese platters
Instructions for Use
Set the mood. Grab a trusted friend or two. Light a few candles, burn sage, maybe put on some Sinéad O'Connor. Turn off all cell phones because nothing kills a séance mood more than push notifications.
Be patient (and polite). Ghosts can be shy, especially when you’re asking them personal questions. Maybe start with something easy like “How’s your day going?” or “Did you catch last night’s This is Us?”
Rest fingertips lightly on the pointer and concentrate. Always keep an even distribution of weight on the pointer, letting the spirits guide your movement around the board.
Production and launch
I crafted the boards on the floor of my windowless basement apartment using a wood-burning tool, reams of sandpaper, and scrap wood from Lowes. After posting a teaser on Instagram, we sold almost half through pre-orders.
Ouija poetry night
We hosted a “Ouija poetry night” where writers were invited to use the boards as a tool for communing with famous dead poets. It provided lighthearted context around what could have been a seriously spooky product.
What I Learned
People are inventive. Even if you prescribe an object’s use, they’ll find a different one that works just as well (if not better). My mom uses her Ouija Board as a trivet for hot dishes on Thanksgiving.